How does the famous bat flip HR from Jose Bautista compare to other Toronto sports ‘big moments’?
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To all Blue Jays fans, the holidays are upon us. It’s that time of year when even the most miserable people smile, where when you hold the door open for someone you’re almost guaranteed to get a ,“Thank You.” However some of the saddest people this year might be Toronto Blue Jays fans. Jays fans aren’t feeling so hot about this offseason so far, the lack of moves, and the departure of Alex Anthopoulos, and even some believing Mark Shapiro was sent by Donald Trump to ruin Canadian baseball and ‘Make America Great Again’ there hasn’t been to much to cheer about. It was only sixty-two days ago that us as fans witnessed one of the greatest moments not only in Blue Jays history, but in recent Toronto sports history.
Much talk is made around Toronto of the years 1967, 1992 & 1993. The last times a Toronto team was relevant, before entering the constant let downs, head shaking, and embarrassment. It seemed like every year, more and more people in Toronto stopped caring all together in supporting their Toronto teams. In this decade it seemed like sports in Toronto has only shown glimpses of hope.
The Raptors, fresh off their first playoff visit in 2000, where they would be swept by the New York Knicks in the first round. They would make the playoffs again in 2001, having a rematch against the Knicks in the first round, beating them in five games, for their first and only playoff victory to date. It would be Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers in the semis. It was a back and forth series, where Iverson would score 52 in Game Five, but Toronto would fight back to force a Game Seven. With two seconds left in Game Seven, the Raptors down one, Vince Carter would take the final shot, and miss… The Raptors went into a downward spiral shortly afterward, and have failed to win a playoff series since.
The Leafs were a perennial playoff team during the 90’s and early 00’s, only missing the playoffs twice between 1992-2004. It wasn’t enough, during that stretch the Leafs would never make it out of their conference, and were never able to shake the year 1967 off their backs. When hockey entered a lock out in 2004-2005, the Leafs success would seem to go with it. Missing the playoffs the next seven season, the Leafs would finally qualify for the Playoffs in the lockout shortened 2012 season. The Leafs would match up against the Boston Bruins, a team they had only beaten once during the regular season in four meetings.
The odds were stacked up against the Leafs, but the amazing play of James Reimer (Something that hasn’t been said since 2012) would propel the Leafs to a Game Seven in Boston. After going up 4-1 on a Kadri goal in the third, it looked like the improbable Leafs would be heading onto the next round. It wouldn’t work out that game, Boston would score three goals in the third, and one in overtime. to make every Leafs fan in Toronto shake their heads in disbelief. This video perfectly sums up this game for anyone who watched it. ‘How?’ that was the question. The saddest part is at the end, when they say “the Leafs will continue to improve from this season.” – the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs since.
Since Vince miss that shot in 2001. The Raptors would make the playoffs in 02, 07, and 08, to not much success. After the Rudy Gay trade early in 2013, the Raptors season was reinvigorated. It was cool to be a Raptors fan again, Kyle Lowry, Demar, JV, Terrance Ross, Amir Johnson. A bunch of rough, tough misfit players, playing team basketball it seemed like this team was good enough to challenge some of the best teams in the East. The only intangible this teams was missing, was playoff experience.
No one on this team had ever gotten a taste for playoff basketball. The Brooklyn Nets with Deron Williams, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett were the exact opposite. The Raptors were better than the Nets though, they should have taken care of them easily. Coming down to the final seconds of Game Seven, the Raptors would again turn to their leader Kyle Lowry to take the final shot. After weaving his way through several defenders, Lowry only had one to beat, and Paul Pierce would get the final say. Pierce would block the shot, and eliminate the new and improved Raptors from the playoffs.
The Raptors seemed to be on the upside, but after being swept by the Washington Wizards last year, its hard to put your finger on this team, or even imagine them challenging Lebron James, Kyrie Irving, and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile when all of this is happening, the Blue Jays were just continuing their streak of not appearing in the playoffs since their 1993 World Series season. After making major moves in the 2012 offseason, and failing year after year, it seemed like the 2014 Blue Jays season would all come together, and the Blue Jays could at least fend for a Wild Card spot. After looking good in the first half of the season, and staying competitive with rival teams, the Blue Jays would stand pat at the trade deadline, resulting in the Jays having a August/September collapse, and failing to make the playoffs yet again.
With offseason acquisitions of Marco Estrada, Josh Donaldson, and Russell Martin, it looked like the Jays were going to be serious contenders in 2015. When the Marcus Stroman injury happened, some thought this team had been cursed somehow. The Jays would be just below .500 entering the July 31st trade deadline, this year the Jays weren’t standing still. Getting Ben Revere, David Price, Mark Lowe, Troy Tulowitzki, and LaTroy Hawkins. Seeming to fix almost every need the Blue Jays had during the season, this team didn’t just look like a playoff team, but looked like a team destined to make a World Series.
Then the Blue Jays would start their second half tear, and the road to their first division title in more than twenty seasons. The city was buzzing, it was all people were talking about, people had their hats on, and fans were filling the stadium every game! Toronto had it’s team back, their chances of relevancy was born again. Their meeting in the ALDS against the Texas Rangers, was seen to be an easy matchup, but nothing is easy in playoff baseball. Forced into another decisive Game Five, was this going to be just another first round exit for another Toronto team?
The top of the seventh innings saw the Blue Jays Russell Martin throw a ball back to pitcher Aaron Sanchez, hit off the bat of Shin- Soo Choo, and score Roughned Odor on the play. One of the oddest plays ever seen in the Postseason, letting the go ahead run score on an error not seen in years. In the late innings of that decisive game, the Texas Rangers defence would fail them, leaving the door wide open for Jose Bautista to finally come through for the city of Toronto.
“The 1-1 from Dyson. Bautista with the drive, deep left field! No doubt about it!” people will remember forever where they were when they heard those words.
Toronto sports teams were 0/3 this decade in big moments, and with one swing of the bat, that streak was finally over. It’s hard not to be romantic about baseball. Jose Bautista, the player who has been on the team the longest, never made the playoffs, has always been the one constant with this team year after year. It had to be him; hitting the biggest long ball since 93, the biggest moment in this cities sports history since who knows how long, making every Toronto sports fan believe just a little once again.
The bat flip was the exclamation point on this season. I didn’t get to see it live, I was watching the ball sail past my head, as I was sitting pretty close to the foul post that night. In this day and age of sports, it had been made into a Vine 30 seconds later, my brother who was at the game with me showed me it. I couldn’t believe what I was watching, the building shaking, the streets after were alive with people screaming, it was like we had won the war! The bat flip will go down as one of the greatest moments in this cities sports history. All the previous good moments for Toronto, didn’t happen in HD — which is incredibly sad to think.
When it comes down to sports history within a city, people only think about the present, and the good. Right now the Leafs are in the present of the year ‘1967’, and will never be able to shake that number until they break their streak. Which might be a while from now, but a defining bat flip moment will happen for them when they do, and it’s all people will talk about. The Blue Jays were stuck with ‘1993’, the last time they made the playoffs.
When they finally put up that banner nobody cared about that anymore, when the bat flip happened it didn’t matter at all. Now they are in the present of “Can they show continued improvement?” but when you think about the bat flip, go back and watch it, does it even matter what happens next?